Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ROYAL STADIUM ROCK

August the second, nineteen hundred and seventy three.  It was a day that thousands of people in the Kansas City area will never forget.  They shouldn't forget it anyway.  For the first time since The Beatles came to Kansas City there was going to be a happening at the new stadium.

Royals Stadium had opened in April of seventy three with a baseball game.  It was a brand new state of the art stadium that probably created lust in the hearts of millions of baseball fans across the country.  The stadium was built as a baseball stadium.  Across the parking lot waiting to open at the end of August sat Arrowhead Stadium which was built as a football stadium.  It is fairly common place today for a city to have two stadiums for each of the sports but back in seventy three it was the first of its kind.  Everything was indeed up to date in Kansas City.  Actually things were way ahead of being up to date in Kansas City with the building of the Truman Sports Complex.  It was the crown jewel of the city and they wasted no time in showing it off as often as they could.

In July of that year it was announced that a concert would be held in the stadium.  It would be the first of dozens of concerts held in either Royals or Arrowhead.  This was the concert that would open the door to stadium rock in Kansas City.  Although tickets were rather pricey at six dollars a head, the tickets went fast.  They estimated over thirty four thousand tickets were sold to the event.

The line up was a good one that I could not refuse.  A Frank Zappa created group called Reuben and the Jets would open the evening.  Leslie West and his new group The Wild West Show would follow.  I had seen Leslie West with his old group, Mountain, and had a couple of his albums.  The man could play guitar.  The appearance of West would be worth close to the six dollar price tag.  After West performed, Marc Bolin and T-Rex were scheduled to appear.  The headliner was the act that caught my eye though.  Three Dog Night was going to perform in the stadium.  My heart nearly stopped when I heard that they were the headliners for the evening.

Three Dog Night had been without a doubt my favorite band up to this time.  The arrangements they did for songs were unbelievable.  Most times they would put the original songwriter/artist to shame when they did a rendition of a song.  Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come" was a number one hit for Three Dog Night.  They made the song come alive while Newman's rendition was slow and lazy and would put you to sleep.  Three Dog Night bettered other artist with their arrangements as well.  The out did Nilsson on the hit "One".  They put Elton John to shame when they recorded "Lady Samantha" and "Your Song".  The biggest one they did though was to take a small silly country song by Hoyt Axton and make it into one of the top selling singles of all time.  "Joy To The World" became Three Dog Night's signature song.  This was going to be a night for the ages.

I asked my then girlfriend and future wife, Barb, to go with me.  She had not been to too many concerts and I had been trying to teach her about the world of music since we began dating back in May of that same year.  This was the chance of a lifetime for her.  Little did we know at that time that we would go together to see Three Dog Night eight more times during our lifetime together.  Each time we saw them they just kept getting better it seemed.  We were even able to take our son at the age of two to see them one year.  It was important to me that Brett see these guys perform, even if he would not remember it.

We got to the Stadium and picked some seats behind the first base dugout.  I always preferred sitting on the first base side for some reason.  Since I was a kid every time we would go to a game it seemed dad got tickets on the first base side so it was natural for me to go there on this night.

During the course of the evening the stadium took on a carnival like atmosphere.  I saw a man juggling down on the field during the show.  Frisbees were flying all over the place long lost from the hands of their original owner.  A couple of beach balls began to be bounced into every corner of the stadium.  One of them even made it to the upper deck.  A couple were married that evening over at third base between acts.  When I reminisce about the night I often wonder if the marriage was blessed by rock and roll or cursed by it.   At any rate it would make one great wedding album of pictures.

After Marc Bolin had left the stage you could feel the excitement start to build.  People were ready.  The night had been predicted to be a troublesome one with so many young people gathering in one place for a rock spectacle.  Things were calm though.  There wasn't any violence at all.  People were relaxed and happy.  I admit this could be due to the heavy layer of weed smoke hanging over the stadium like a fog on an early San Fransisco morning.  I didn't get high that night but could have easily achieved it if I had been in the upper deck.

When I saw the limousine drive from the bullpen to the back of the stage I started hitting Barb on the shoulder.  There they were.  They were in that car.  The whole place was starting to calm down with anticipation of the lead act on what had been a wonderful night.

Three Dog Night depended upon harmony vocals in their songs.  The first time I heard them sing live though, it was awful.  The three of them could not hear themselves singing up on the stage and their voice went in three different directions.  It wasn't long before the sound people had the problem fixed and suddenly the three singers sounded like a well tuned piano playing a grandiose concerto.  They went through all of their hits plus a lot of songs from the new album they had just released.  At the end of the concert a fireworks display went out over the stadium.  The night was over.  I had finally seen Three Dog Night and Barb had been there to see them with me.  Personally, I think she was impressed by the quality of music during the course of the night.

People left as politely as they had arrived.  There was no trouble to report from the concert.  The reviews could only say good things about the performers and the crowd.  The city fathers had to be a little disseminated I think because they were so sure that their predictions of violence and damage to the stadium would come true..  Not one of those things happened.  What did happen was that some frisbees were thrown around, some beach ball were tossed about, a couple pledged their lives to each other and stadium rock arrived in Kansas City. This concert would be the forerunner of such acts as the Rolling Stones, Micheal Jackson, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band and a host of others.

Concerts aren't held at the stadiums much anymore.  The era of stadium rock has slowly died out.  From my experience a stadium concert brings an atmosphere to the show unlike anything an indoor concert can provide.  You feel free, you feel the music and you feel the hypnotic linkage of the crowd to each other.

This concert blew me away.  All it did was make me wish I had been old enough to go to Woodstock to see what a real outdoor concert would have been like.

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